Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crossstitch Craziness

CrossStitch: Always takes huge time to finish one project. All my friends who love crafts always avoid cross stich. According to them it is really tough to keep patience for a long time. Also, there question is, how can I keep patience? I don't know the answer. I just love to do it.

Sonoma wine tour

One day, before my parents came to stay with us, my husband asked me where I wanted to make trips with my parents. I was very skeptical, about their health, as they were aged people and coming from India to the USA. Suddenly, one day my husband got a good deal of Sonoma tour. He sought my opinion whether accept the deal or not. After a little thought, I asked him to accept that. I thought that, if they denied to go there, we would go twice. Anyway after they spent some days, I asked them. When both of them agreed with us, we decided to go there on one Saturday.
The tour was scheduled to start at 8 o’clock in the morning from SFO, which was far from our home. So, we woke up very early in the morning to prepare for the day. Our plan was to start from home at 7 in the morning. We started around 7 o’clock and we reached SFO at quarter to eight. Everything was fine. The weather in SFO was little bit foggy, which was very normal for the foggy city. Our journey started from Ferry Building, SFO. I was very happy, when our bus crossed Golden Gate Bridge, which was fortunately clear and they could see the bridge. The famous landmark of SFO was the dream of every tourist to see in their own eye, my parents were lucky to cross the bridge and got the full view of it. The vibrant lash greenery of Sonoma welcomed us. First we went to Loxton Wineries.
Wine Barrels in Loxton wineries

 My husband was very happy to taste six different kinds of wines. Our tour guide who was a very friendly person offered us different kinds of cheese and chocolates which could be best possible with wines. . I tasted 2 types, and then I didn’t like to taste more .So, I sat outside the winery with my son and parents. From there we went to Landmark winery.
Landmark winiries
Landmark wineries

I didn’t want to taste more. My mother and I went through the winery which was beautifully decorated. The bright colored full bloomed flowers added beauty on the sunny day. My mother, who loves gardening, admired the skillfully decorated garden. Our tour guide this provided a special kind of beard with olive oil to eat with wine. The bread was very tasty. Then our bus took us to a restaurant area for lunch. However, we carried our lunch with us. So, we wanted to sit somewhere. Also, we were searching an area where my parents could rest and enjoy. Our tour guide showed us the historical Sonoma Barrack, which was converted in a museum. We bought two tickets for them to see the historical movie about Sonoma. My mother enjoyed the movie a lot. Sonoma, previously known as Solano had a rich history. The area ruled by different country at different times. The county was the natural habitats of Pomo, Miwok and Wappo tribes of natives Indians. Spaniards, Russians, and other Europeans claimed and settled in the county from the late 16th to mid-19th century, seeking timber, fur, and farmland. The Mission San Francisco Solano, founded in 1823 as the last and northernmost of 21 California missions, is in the present City of Sonoma, at the northern end of El Camino Real. Sonoma Barracks (part of Spain's Fourth Military District), was established in 1836 by Commandant General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. His duties was keeping an eye on the Russian traders at Fort Ross, secularizing the Mission, maintaining cooperation with the Native Americans of the entire region, and sharing out the lands for large estates and ranches. Sonoma became part of America in 1846 after Mexican American war. Anyway, after my parents sat in the Historical Sonoma Barrack, my husband, son and I went to have lunch at a park opposite to the road. After lunch we headed to Robledo winery. My parents didn’t want to go to the winery, so, we three went there. The owner told us an interesting story about their ranch. His father came from Mexico at the age of 16 to work in the wineries in Sonoma. Currently they were owner of 400 acre of land. It was an amazing story of a penniless to billionaire man. That was the end our tour. Our bus took us to SFO again. And we reached home at 7 in the evening. Though my parents didn’t enjoy the wine tasting, but they enjoyed the beauty of Sonoma and its past history.
San Francisco De Solano, the last mission of the mission trail

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beautiful 17 miles drives

I heard about 17 miles drive for a long time. We decided many times to visit the place, but that was never materialized. When my parents came to my place to stay for some days, we decided to visit that place. On one Saturday afternoon we planned to visit. We had lunch at McDonalds at Gilroy shopping mall. I wanted to show my parents the mall, but we didn’t have time. Our journey started through the dry roads of Gilroy, which was famous for garlic plantations. My parents were very amazed by the fact that how crops had grown in such a dry barren land. Anyway, it was an 80 miles drive from our home. After crossing Gilroy, when we entered the freeway 1 we could see Pacific Ocean on our right hand side. I showed that to my parents with great enthusiasm. They also thrilled when they saw Pacific in their own eye. It was like dream came true for them.
Pebble Beach Golf course

We had to pay a fee, as it was a toll road. After entering through Pacific Grove gate, we discovered that, the 17 mile drive, was a wonderful and scenic drive with beautiful views through Del Monte Forest. 17 miles drive was famous long before the automobile became the way of life. It was navigated by horse drawn carriage.

The drive was a loop, we tried to stop almost every point and take photos. It was a wonderful day with pale blue sky and the road brought us in sight of the rolling mist, the cooling fog coming off Monterey Bay, and mountains covered with fog. It was really amazing that the weather was totally different within 30 miles. At Gilroy it was really hot with burning sun, compared to foggy and cold weather at 17 miles drive. Anyway, after entering there we directly went to Poppy Hill golf Course. We spent few minutes there, because we had nothing to do there. However, the golf course was so beautiful, that I personally wanted to spend lots of time there, but our time didn’t allow us to that. We decided to not to get out from the car at any golf course, as we had nothing to do there. From there we started our journey again and reached at Pebble Beach Golf course, but we didn’t get out from car there. We started from there and stopped at Ghost Tree point. The Ghost Tree was an old Cypress Tree that after many years of damage by the wind and sea-water now looked as a silhouette of a ghost; behind The Ghost Tree, a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean came to our sight. When we started for the next point I told my husband that, he didn’t take the photo of The Ghost tree point. For me he went back and took a photo. The next point was The Lone Cypress .The official symbol of Pebble Beach; the lone Cyprus Tree which was a two hundred years of old tree that stood alone on top of rocks with made an awesome view of The Pacific Ocean behind it. The Lone Cypress tree was the landmark 16 on the official 17 Mile Drive Map. This was the icon of the Pebble Beach Company for nearly a century. The world-famous, The Lone Cypress Tree was the only living entity to be trademarked.  Next we headed towards Fanshell Overlook. Though Fanshell Overlook was famous for its small white sandy beach, scenic coastal overlook, and crashing waves, but we didn’t stop there and went directly to Seal Rock Picnic Area. Fanshell Overlook remained Close during harbor seal pupping season April 1-June 1. After getting out of the car at Seal Rock, we could get a spectacular view of resting seals from there. We have never seen seals outside zoos. It was an amazing experience to watch the seals in their natural habitat. The place was too cold there, windy, and foggy to stand there for long. One big seal showed up his face for a longtime, as if it showed his face for the tourists to take a photo. On the opposite of Seal Rock was Spyglass Hill Golf Course.

SpyGlass Hill Golf course

Bird Rock
The golf course became more scenic when some deer appeared suddenly there in the foggy weather. Then we headed towards Bird Rock, the landmark was the home of countless shorebirds and groups of harbor seals and sea lions. When we saw them from our car it was an amazing view, but when got out of car, our ecstasy converted into a horrible experience by the filthy smell of birds.
 We spent very little time there. By the time, as the weather started getting colder, everybody wanted to go back home. So, we didn’t stop at other points, and directly stopped at Huckleberry hills, because I wanted to stop there. Huckleberry Hills named for the abundance of native bushes, which was one of the highest elevation in the forest. That was an enthralling experience when we found ourselves in the dense bushes with cloud moving surrounded us. However the chilled weather abided us to stay there for a long. Then we stopped at Shepherd’s Knoll which was the vista point gave a grand view Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz mountain. That was the end of our day. We thought that we would eat something at Gilroy Shopping outlet. However, at the end we abandoned that plan and came back home.

Huckleberry Hills

Monday, November 7, 2011


Suddenly one morning I felt that I needed to change in my eating habit. I thought to add some extra healthy items. I put the proposal of eating salad to my hubby, but, he dampened my spirit within a moment. So, I decided to very, very healthy salads in my lunch. I felt very happy after introducing this change in my eating habit.
I’m sharing some of the recipes of salads
Avocado-Sprout salad:
Avocado is a vitamin reached food help to control cholesterol. When both avocado and sprouts are already tasty, then there is no need to add any spice to make it tasty.
avocado 1
tomato 1
sprouts 1/2 cup
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper powder

Method: Slice the avocado and tomato. Mix all the ingredients. If you like , you can mix one tsp. of olive oil.

Sprout salad:

sprouts 1/2 cup
carrot 1/2 ( If you are using baby carrots, then you can put 4-5 pieces)
tomato 1
cucumber 1
salt to taste
lime juice 1 tsp.
pepper powder one pinch
 Method: Cut the carrot, tomato, cucumber into small pieces. Mix all the ingredients well.

Carrot-Beet Salad:
 Though the taste is very, very bad, still I eat this salad, just because it is healthy. In the middle of my lunch, sometimes I feel like throwing the plate. However, that very moment I tell myself to eat it, to get a good health.
Carrot 1/2
Beet 1/2
Cucumber 1
Tomato 1
Sprout 1 tbsp.
Salt to taste
Pepper powder 1/4 tsp.

Method: Cut carrot, beet cucumber, tomato into small pieces and mix all the ingredients. You can mix one tsp. olive oil also.

Onion-sprout salad:

This is my most favourite salad.

Cucumber 1
avocado 1
chopped onion 1 tbsp.
sprout 1/2 cup
salt to taste
 lime juice 1 tsp.
pepper powder one pich.

Method:  Cut cucumber, avocado into small pieces. Mix all the ingerdients well.

Hope by these recipes I can help my friend who are trying reduce fat and try to be healthy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pujo 2011

Durga puja, the ceremonial worship of the Ma Durga (mother goddess), is the main festivals of the Bengalis. The festival is observed for six days mainly, as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Bijoya Dashami. The dates of the Puja are set according to the traditional Bengali calendar. The fortnight corresponding to the festival is called Devi Paksha (‘Fortnight of the Goddess’). Devi Paksha. The previous fortnight is called Pitri Paksha(‘ Fortnight of the Forefathers’). Mahalaya is the last day of Pitri Paksha. These days are celebrated with high spirit and grandeur in India and abroad, especially in Bengal. On that day Bengalis pay homage to their forefathers. Devi Durga, the ten-armed goddess riding on a lion is worshipped passionately with great devotion.
Birth of Durga:
We celebrate those six days with great enthusiasm, but few of us know the Mythological fact behind it. According to Hindu Mythology, in the ancient times, a demon called 'Mahishasura' (demon in disguise of Buffalo) earned the favor of 'Lord Brahma' through prolonged meditation severe austerity. Pleased by his devotion, the lord blessed him with a boon that no man or Deity could kill him. Armed with this power, Mahishasura started his reign over the Earth and Heaven by killing people mercilessly and assaulting gods. Lastly, a strong army of demons, led by the king Mahishasura captured the abode of the Deities by defeating the king of gods, Indra. Then, Mahishasura took over the throne of heaven. All the gods were driven out of the heaven. After their ignominious defeat they went to the Supreme Gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to save themselves and the people on the world.
The rampage by the demons enraged the Supreme Gods. Their faces were flushed with anger. All the three worlds: the heaven, the earth, and the nether-world were illuminated by that light of flames and thunderbolts. From that energy of fire a shape of a young woman appeared. Her face was created from the light of Shiva. Her ten arms were from Lord Vishnu. Her legs were created by Lord Brahma. All the gods gifted her different kind of weapons. Equipped with all these weapons she set off, seated upon a lion. His thunderous roars shook the three worlds. Oceans swelled up and broke over the land, touching the sky. A whole new chains of mountains rose through the continents, while older ranges crumbled, cracked, and gave way to dust in a thousand landslides. Seeing these momentous and violent events through all the three worlds, Mahishasura and his demon allies turned their attention from heaven to Earth. Fierce battle was fought. Through magical spell Mahishasura kept changing his shape and form from one to another to puzzle the Devi. Finally the Goddess beheaded the buffalo and from it emerged Mahishasura in his original form. Durga pierced his chest with the trident, and relieved the world from the evil power.
The gods returned to heaven, they praised the Goddess Durga by showering floral compliments. Since then, Goddess Durga is worshipped by all the gods in heaven, and all human beings on earth.
According to Puranas (the epics), King Suratha, used to worship the goddess Durga in spring. Thus Durga Puja was also known as Basanti Puja (Basanta being spring). Though the vernal worship of Durga still goes on, it is the Ram's Akalbodhan during the autumn that came to be a most widely accepted practice.
Durga Puja Mythology: Rama's 'Akal Bodhan' ('untimely awakening of Durga')
Durga Puja is celebrated every year in the Bengali month of Ashwin (September-October) which known as Akal Bodhan. According to Ramayana (A great Epic) Prince Rama's invocated the goddess before going to war with the demon king Ravana to rescue his wife Sita, who kept her captive. This autumnal ritual was different from the conventional Durga Puja, which is usually celebrated in the spring-time. So, this Puja is also known as 'akal-bodhan' or untimely worship of the goddess. Thus goes the story of Lord Rama, who first worshipped the 'Mahishasura Mardini' or the slayer of the buffalo-demon, by offering 108 blue lotuses and lighting 108 lamps, at this time of the year. Ravana was cremated on Dashami. This is why Dashera is celebrated in India with so much of fanfare and the effigy of Raavana is burnt.

The 'Baro-Yaari' Puja and Beginning of Mass Celebration
Long ago, the puja was performed only by the Rajas and Zaminders. The community puja first started by twelve friends of Guptipara in Hoogly, West Bengal, who collaborated and collected contributions from local residents to conduct the first community puja called the 'baro-yaari' puja or the 'twelve-pal' puja in 1790.  Since then mass celebration of the puja has been started.

We, Bengalis see Devi Durga as mother (Maa), who has divine power against all evil. To us, mother comes to her maternal home from in-laws home. This autumnal festival is popularly known as Sharodotsav. On the tenth day she goes back to her in-laws home in Kailas. Maa comes on the earth to bless all her sons and daughters; we worship her to seek her blessings. This event has a significant presence in Bengali life. Numerous poetries, novels, and short stories have been written based on this festival. Modern traditions have come to include the display of decorated pandals and artistically depicted idols (murti) of Durga, publication of Puja Annual magazines and exchange of Vijaya greetings. Durga Puja is an occasion when the familiar sound of Dhak( a special kind of drum), Dhunuchi nachh( dance with a special earthen pot made for puja) , the mild fragrance of Shiuli(night jasmine), gives a familiar attraction to every Bengali heart.  Dressed in attires of latest fashion, hopping from pandal to pandal, and having many kind of delicious food at home and in the restaurant are the main activities of the people. Bengalis all over the world wait through-out the year for these four days. To us it is not only a festival; it’s the time of reunion with near and dear ones. Parents wait to see their sons and daughter who live far away from home. It’s the time to come home. It’s time to get the mild fragrance of shiuli at dawn in the little cold. It’s time to walk on the dew-drenched grass in the morning. It’s time to have food cooked by mother at home. However, everybody is not lucky to go home at this time. Our present life, demanding job, and children’s education bar us to go home. So, the Bengalis who live on the other parts of world use to perform the pujas at the places where they live. Even in the USA and Europe, and in the Far East Bengalis try to celebrate this occasion, though they cannot perform the puja according to the Bengali calendar. For the convenience, in the USA, Bengalis perform the puja in the weekends in the autumn season.   
I saw the last Durga puja in Calcutta in the year of 2003. It had been eight long years I couldn’t stay at home with my parents during this time.  Unlike other Bengalis I love to stay at home to spend time with parents instead of pandal-hopping. Durga puja always reminds me, my childhood. I always miss the sweet cold breeze of the early dawn, the mild fragrance of shiuli (night jasmine) from the tree in front of our house, the festival magazines and the Puja vacation of school and college. My father was not that much wealthy to provide us very nice expensive dresses. However, whatever dresses my parents used to present us were stitched by themselves.  We sisters, especially I, sometimes didn’t like the dresses they stitched for us. Unfortunately, at that time we were too young to understand the love and affection.  Those days were gone and won’t be back.
'Prabasi' puja

This year was the fourth year I spent puja-time in the USA. I was not very enthusiastic about puja this time. Somehow I felt that I lost my all energy to celebrate the time. On the top of that, I couldn’t wear my contact lenses and my granny like specs discouraged me to deck-up for the puja. My husband also didn’t show any enthusiasm this time. I knew that he was missing the puja in Calcutta. I decided to celebrate this puja by cooking some delicious dishes at home, and I knew that my foodie hubby was going to like that. Anyway, we went to Foster City Saturday evening on 1st October to attend ‘Bay-Basi’ puja. There my husband found some of his old pals and we had a good time. Next day we went to ‘Paschimi’ Puja at Fremont. When we reached there, the friends of my husband told that, the food-stalls were not ready, so they were going to a restaurant near-by. We didn’t go there; because I already cooked in the morning .Bengalis are extremely foodies. Whenever few Bengalis talk, the main topic of the conversation surely will be food. There is no Bengali festival with any special food. Different festivals are associated with different kind of food. When Durga puja is the main festival, then it is associated with many delicious dishes.  Though there are some special dishes for the four days, in modern days all kind of dishes all over the world become associated with the festival. Anyway, as the next day was Monday, so, we didn’t go to the puja at Paschimi. I wanted to go in the morning on Tuesday, because that day was the Ashtami(eighth day of the puja), but my husband was not interested go , and I also didn’t tell him my desire. That evening it started down pouring, so it was out of question to go. Wednesday, my husband decided to go at Paschimi puja. His friends told that they would come, if there was no rain on the evening. It was extremely cold. So, I decided not to wear sari, which I love to wear in any festival. We spent some times there, chatting with each other and decided to go again on Friday for Sindur Khela. Sindur (vermilion) Khela(play) is an important part of the festival. On the last day of the puja the married ladies put sindur on Ma durga’s forehead head and then put sindur on each other. This year I didn’t to take part in Sinder-Khela, but my friends put vermilion on my forehead.  Again on Saturday we went to another community Puja at Hayward. The community is known as ‘Prabasi’ which is the oldest Durga Puja in the Bay Area. They performed the puja on Saturday and Sunday. We went there Saturday afternoon and spent some times. We also wanted to go Sunday afternoon, but I was not feeling good. So, we decided to go in the evening. After spending the evening there we went to have dinner in Fremont with some of my husband’s friends.

We enjoyed those days with friends. Sometimes I felt sad, that we couldn’t enjoy with our family back home. When I think that they also missed us during the time of the main festival, I felt an uneasiness in my mind. A fear of loss loomed over me. I felt that something I missed my life which would never be back.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lemon cup cakes

I never baked any cupcakes, but I wanted to do that always. So, one day when I went to Dollar shop I bought one cupcake-baking tray. After using that I found that very helpful. With that I can make small cakes which serve as very good snacks item. Whenever my little one wants have a cake I bake within no time. Its take very small amount of time, because ingredients are of very small amount.
Here the recipe:
4 tbsp. of flours
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. of vanilla essence
2 tbsp. of sugar
1 tbsp. of oil (I use olive oil)
Pinch of salt
Enough milk to make a medium thick batter
Maximum time of bake:  ½ hour (depending on the power of the oven)
1tsp. of lemon jest
Lemon Jest: Great the peel of a yellow lemon to get 1 tsp. of jest.
Take the egg and separate the yolk and the white part into two separate bowl. Whisk thoroughly the egg-white, sugar and salt into a smooth batter. Whisk the yellow part separately. Now mix all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add milk time to time to make a medium thick batter. Now grease each of the scoops of the tray and sprinkle small amount of flour into it. Pour 2 tbsp. of the batter into each of the scoops. Bake for 15 minutes and check with a fork or knife by putting in the middle of each cake. If the knife doesn’t come out smooth then bake the cakes depending on the condition. May be it can take another 10 minutes to bake fully.